Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry revealed a new charge against Richmond Hill blast suspect Mark Leonard in what he characterized as a murder-for-hire plot.
Leonard was charged with conspiracy to commit murder. A source informed Fox 59 of the development Wednesday, revealing that jail investigators intercepted phone calls from Leonard attempting to orchestrate the plot from jail.
During a Thursday morning news conference, Curry revealed that Leonard tried to arrange for the death of a witness in the explosion identified only as “M.D.” According to Curry, Leonard offered a hit man $15,000 to carry out the hit. Curry also said Leonard offered an additional $5,000 as a “bonus” for successful completion.
According to the probable cause affidavit, Leonard thought “that if M.D. was killed, (he) would have to be released shortly after M.D.’s death.”
Leonard drew up a map and provided information about M.D.’s neighbors and neighborhood. According to Curry, Leonard wanted M.D.’s death to look like a suicide. Leonard arranged the deal by making phone calls from the Marion County Jail. Curry said Leonard tried to orchestrate the plot through an inmate housed in the same cell block.
The hit man contact was an undercover investigator from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who confirmed the deal by recording phone calls. Investigators also recovered a document signed by Leonard confirming the payment of $15,000 upon his release from jail.
According to court documents, Leonard said M.D. “was a homebody with no friends…there won’t be nobody showing up or nothing.” The documents said “the best time (for the killing) would be the evening and advised there wouldn’t be kids, other people or dogs.” Leonard said going through the back door “would be best” to avoid arousing the suspicion of neighbors.
Leonard said to make the death “quick and quiet,” according to court documents. When asked by the hit man if he wanted a “souvenir” to confirm the killing, Leonard replied, “Yeah, I don’t need it, reading in the paper will be enough.”
Leonard said the murder “will get me out of here, dude” and advised that the fewer people who knew about the plot, the better. Investigators said the undercover agent asked Leonard about the plot several times, and Leonard affirmed that he wanted to go through with it.
Curry said he was unaware of any threats against other witnesses in the case.
Leonard already faces several charges in connection with the November 2012 explosion that killed Jennifer and Dion Longworth in the Richmond Hill neighborhood. Investigators said it was a plot to destroy a home and defraud an insurance company.
Leonard, his girlfriend and homeowner Moncy Shirley; and his half-brother Bob Leonard are charged with murder and arson in the case.
Investigators said the trio conspired with possibly one more person to blow up Shirley’s home on Fieldfare Way by opening up a gas valve on a fire place, filling the home with natural gas. Several hours later, a small metal tank placed inside a microwave oven set with a delayed timer exploded, setting off the explosion that destroyed the home and damaged dozens of others.
Just before Christmas, the Leonard brothers and Shirley were arrested and placed in the Marion County jail where they remain right now.
Shirley and the Leonard brothers are due back in court April 10, when the judge begins taking a look at a 2014 trial date. Each defendant faces the prospect of life without parole if convicted.